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Mafia planned to infiltrate Malta gaming companies

Italian police in Palermo raids

The ‘Favorita’ race track in Palermo.

The ‘Favorita’ race track in Palermo.

An anti-Mafia investigation in Palermo uncovered “advanced plans” by Mafia clans to relocate their underground activities through online gaming companies in Malta, the Times of Malta is informed.

Last week, following a series of police raids in Palermo, some 25 mafiosi – mostly known to the police – were arrested in connection with an investigation on the infiltration of the Mafia into horse races held at the ‘Favorita’ race track in Palermo.

According to Salvatore de Luca – chief anti-Mafia procurator in Palermo – it was discovered that Mafia bosses were planning to shift their illegal activities to Malta as “it was becoming riskier to continue with their illegal activities based on extortion”.

“The Mafia bosses, particularly the clans from Resuttana-San Lorenzo (an area in southern Palermo) were putting in place a structured plan to translocate their illegal activities to Malta’s online gaming industry,” the chief procurator said.

“Malta has recently become the capital of online gambling and the Mafia bosses thought that this would be a good financial vehicle for them and less risky than making their money from extortion.”

Less risky than making their money from extortion

Sources close to the Italian police said that the plan, which had not been executed, was to find some investors in Malta’s online gaming industry who could take over all the illegal activities performed by the clan in Palermo, including the betting industry at Palermo’s race track.

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The chief prosecutor said the Mafia always had a close interest in gambling and its operations and the online industry was one avenue which was being closely followed.

Last week’s anti-Mafia operation, dubbed Operazione Talea, led to the closure of the Palermo horse race track as it was considered to be controlled by the Resuttana-San Lorenzo clan. It was discovered that horse races and their results were controlled by the Mafia in order to make the most out of both legal and illegal gambling.

Connections between organised crime and Malta’s online gambling industry have already surfaced before.

Just a few weeks ago, seven people in northern Italy were arrested in connection with a multi-million online gambling racket involving parlours across Italy directly connected to a server hosted at a Qormi-based company.

Massimiliano Fullin and Fabio Vaglianetti, directors of Medialive Limited and both residing in Malta, were among those arrested.

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According to the Italian police, all the proceeds of gambling in some 24 establishments in six Italian regions were bypassing the Italian authorities by using Malta-based servers. Some €10 million in taxes due to the Italian State was avoided, according to the investigation.

In 2013, Malta’s gaming industry was also involved in another Italian investigation, this time connecting the ‘Ndrangheta –  the Calabrian Mafia – accused of recycling dirty money though online gaming companies in Italy, Malta and other countries.

The Malta-based companies BetSolutions4U and Uniq Group Ltd were named in the Italian investigation and were suspended by the Malta Gaming Authority.

The MGA is the regulatory authority of Malta’s flourishing gaming industry, which employs thousands, mostly non-Maltese. It insists that it has strict monitoring rules on the activities of Maltese gaming licence holders.

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